Provenance Unknown: A New CMTC Lecture Series  

The Centre for Manuscript and Text Cultures (CMTC) in the University of Oxford is proud to announce a new lecture seriesProvenance: Unknown 

The new lecture series on unprovenanced manuscripts/inscriptions seeks to gather a wide range of voices from academics in different fields or disciplines about the methodological pros and cons of working with unprovenanced mss/inscriptions in academic contexts.

The lectures will cover matters such as the legal concerns, ethical concerns, and academic concerns by keeping a strict focus on methodology.

The aim of the lecture series is to work towards a general framework of good academic practice in the field of manuscript cultures.

Our first speaker is Alexander Herman, Director of the Institute of Art and Law. His most recent book is ‘Restitution — The Return of Cultural Artefacts’.

Title: Don’t Turn That Page! The Legal Risks of Dealing in Unprovenanced Manuscripts

Time and place: 30 May, 5.15pm (UK time), Memorial Room, The Queen’s College, Oxford, UK


Researching and curating historical manuscripts is not without its risks, and these include legal risks. Questions arise in the context of dealing in unprovenanced manuscripts, such as when it is not clear when a manuscript left its country of origin nor under what circumstances. Also at issue are manuscripts that have a clear, but controversial provenance, such as those looted during periods of armed conflict or oppression. This talk will discuss the legal risks – if any – of dealing in such material, both from a national and international perspective. It will also raise the separate, but interlinked, question of morality of such activities.

The speaker:

Alexander Herman is the Director of the UK-based Institute of Art and Law. He has written, taught and presented on an array of topics in relation to art, law and cultural property. His writing appears regularly in The Art Newspaper and he has been quoted widely in the press on art law topics (including in The GuardianThe New York TimesThe Atlantic, The Telegraph, ArtNETThe Globe & Mail and Bloomberg). His work has also been cited in the UK House of Lords and before the US Supreme Court. He trained in both common law and civil law legal systems at McGill University and practised law in Canada. He is Programme Co-Director of the Art, Business and Law LLM which runs as a partnership between the Centre for Commercial Law Studies at Queen Mary University of London and the Institute of Art and Law. His latest book is Restitution: The Return of Cultural Artefacts (Lund Humphries, 2021).

Online link will be provided later

…and keep an eye out for further announcements!

Image: Beinecke MS 408, also known as Voynich Manuscript, p.32

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